Wagga will be going to the polls on December 4, to vote for our local government representatives to form the council for the next four years.
Do I hear yawns and see shoulders shrug? Citizens often feel removed from and disregarded by those who make decisions, at all levels of government.
In fact, there has been a substantial increase in distrust of politicians and politics in general over the past decade. We hear about the Canberra bubble and the NSW "bear pit" and wonder in whose interests these parliaments operate.
However, when we come to our local elections, it's closer to home. It's open, personal, harder to hide. We can ask for more accountability.
My particular appeal is to the women of Wagga local government area.
One of the consequences for those who have lost faith in government, who don't see the issues important to them on the agenda, is that we forget the power bestowed upon us as citizens when we reach the age of 18: the right to vote.
Many women express a deep dissatisfaction and anger about the way their issues are given low priority in policies and funding. So often, it feels as if we are invisible to those who make decisions about such issues.
So, what are the issues which are particularly important to women? Navigating career and motherhood, caregiving, access to equal opportunity, affordable child-care, secure part-time work, family violence and safe housing, safety on the streets and in our neighbourhoods, affordable services and housing, safe footpaths, accessible recreation facilities, sporting grounds for children's and adult sports, mental health services, care for the elderly and those with disabilities, access to public transport, safe local roads...
Of course women are also interested and engaged in the big-ticket issues of our times such as the economy, the pandemic, climate change, sustainable agriculture, international peace, trade agreements, and human rights.
However, it is where we live, and work and raise our families and care for our loved ones that often is our daily focus.
This is such crucial and critical work in our communities, without which our lives would be harsh, unstable, violent and unbearable.
Women are seen as the ones who provide this care, pick up the pieces when relationships break, do the bulk of the unpaid work that keeps our communities functioning.
However, this is the rub. It is undervalued, not seen as part of the "real" economy, secondary to the important issues which politicians and business owners and the ASX top 200 companies busy themselves with.
I might just also mention that in this important world, women do not feature in anything like equal numbers to men. Roughly, in federal politics women hold 35 per cent of seats in both houses of the parliament. Big business is the domain of powerful men.
Women represent less than a third of all NSW councillors and mayors. On the Wagga local council it is less, with only two of the nine councillors being women.
We need to focus. We need to make our vote count.
I ask the question, why has there never been a woman mayor in Wagga?
Why has there never been more than two women at any time on the council, with the majority of time in its history being made up solely of men? What are the consequences of having such an unbalanced gender representation, and unbalanced in a number of other ways?
The men on our local council have traditionally come from particular backgrounds, ages, ethnicity and sections of our community. We become used to this being the norm. We internalise; this is men's work.
We claim, in the materials promoting our community, to have a diverse cultural heritage and rich background. If so, this is not reflected in our councillors. At the most basic level of gender there is a stark inequality, and when it comes to cultural diversity there is none.
So, I am asking the women of Wagga to make your vote count. Vote in more women. Let's increase the numbers and participation of women in public life so that decision-making more clearly represents the interests and needs of our community.
We have had enough white, middle-class, older men representing development, real estate, professions and business on our council. Let's balance this with women, who have their finger on the pulse of their community, as only women can.
Don't be duped by men who place themselves no. 1 in groups with women under them. Usually, only the man is elected.
Look for groups of women or vote below the line and chose women whose policies and ideas align with your own. More in my next column.